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Growth Mindset (again)

This is not my first blog post about growth mindset.  But I find that it comes up every year in different ways in my classroom; as I teach different groups of students, or different content, or different individuals, I continue to learn more about ways of promoting growth mindset, as well as potential barriers that students may face.

Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.”  She defines growth mindset as “the understanding that (one’s own) abilities and intelligence can be developed.”  Students with a growth mindset tend to persist through challenging work, bounce back from setbacks, and feel more comfortable grappling with new material. Research has shown that students with a growth mindset perform better academically in the long run.

There are many ways for teachers and parents to promote growth mindset among children.   Here is one story I told my students that I believe has been a helpful tool thus far this year.

When I was in high school, I played soccer.  I was not great, but I was a fast runner and I was a hard worker.  The problem was that I did not play soccer as I was growing up like many of my teammates had, and I was lacking a lot of the ball skills they learned throughout elementary and middle school.  Specifically, I was really terrible at kicking with my left foot, and good soccer players need to be able to kick with both feet! So I generally avoided kicking the ball with my left foot, but this was problematic because, in a game, one doesn’t always have time or space to place the ball on the foot they want to use.  I didn’t want to kick with my left foot because I knew I wouldn’t kick it well; but I wouldn’t get better at it unless I kicked with my left foot!

To help me learn, my coach had me take a soccer ball to the wall of the school and kick the ball against the wall with my left foot hundreds and hundreds of times.  When I started, I hated it. I was not good at it, it was not fun, and it was frustrating. I soon learned that the more I did it, the better I got, the more fun it was, and more I wanted to do it, and the better I got, and the more fun it became, and so on.  This little mantra, “The more you do it, the better you get, the easier it is, the more you want to do it, the better you’ll get…” and on and on, has become a commonly heard utterance in my classroom this year. Students have applied it to multiplication facts, reading hard words, cursive handwriting, and many more topics.  

Sharing my personal story with the students provided a connection for them. It has also reminded me how it feels to face challenging tasks, and has helped me to develop patience, empathy, and support for students in similar situations.

Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.